Council of Europe Criticizes Unhelpful Poland in CIA Prison Probe | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.11.2006

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Council of Europe Criticizes Unhelpful Poland in CIA Prison Probe

European investigators looking into allegations that the United States held terrorist suspects in secret detention facilities in Europe singled out Poland on Friday for failing to help the probe.

"Nowhere have we seen such a lack of willingness to cooperate as in Poland," said Carlos Coelho, the Portuguese member of the European Parliament leading the inquiry commission.

The 46-nation Council of Europe's team of a dozen lawmakers began a round of hearings in Poland on Wednesday. It was part of its efforts to shed light on allegations that Poland and other European countries were home to secret CIA prisons or helped the United States transfer suspects.

Poland has consistently denied playing host to secret CIA prisons.

Earlier this week, the commission met with Polish journalists who have been looking into the allegations, which first surfaced last year.

Lack of cooperation and withholding information

"Sometimes I feel that, when dealing with these matters, members of parliament and journalists are confronted with the same kind of difficulties: lack of cooperation and withholding of information," said Coelho.

He noted that the commission had been unable to meet Polish lawmakers, something it has done elsewhere.

He also criticized the "reluctance of the government to offer full cooperation to our investigation and to receive our delegation at an appropriate political level."

The commission was only able to meet with an aide to Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, an official who Coelho noted lacked cabinet status and so was unable to answer all the team's questions.

Romania has also found itself in the spotlight over alleged prisons. Like Poland, the country has become a key US ally since the collapse of communism.

"I feel obliged to highlight the difference between the openness and readiness to cooperate we were offered when we went to Romania three weeks ago and what we have experienced during our visit to Poland," said Coelho.

Relations likely to become more strained

In June, Poland's then prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, dismissed as "libel" a report issued by the Council of Europe alleging that Poland may have been involved.

Romania has also denied the allegations contained in the report by Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty, who conceded that he had no formal evidence.

In September, US President George W. Bush acknowledged that 14 prisoners who were set to be tried had been detained in secret centers abroad but did not say where exactly they were held.

The Council of Europe report also said that Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden may have at least tacitly violated human rights by allegedly allowing the CIA to transfer or detain suspected Islamist terrorists on their territory.

Coelho said that the commission of inquiry was set to produce its own draft report by the end of the month.

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